Indian veterans endorse ‘trial for war crimes’ in Bangladesh

March 31st, 2008 - 2:51 pm ICT by admin  

Dhaka, March 31 (IANS) Thirty-seven years after they helped the emergence of an independent Bangladesh, visiting Indian war veterans endorsed a demand here for the trial of those who collaborated with the Pakistani authorities, committing atrocities on civilians. “The trial of war criminals can be held under the country’s existing law. The government can take initiatives of holding their (war criminals) trials as the country’s people have already raised their voices for it,” Lt. Gen. (retd) J.F.R. Jacob, who had planned the military campaign in December 1971, said after placing wreaths at the National Memorial at Savar Sunday.

Jacob was here as the head of an 11-member delegation of Indian war veterans, visiting the country at the invitation of Bangladesh Army Chief Gen. Moin U. Ahmed.

His former colleague, Maj Gen (retd) Laxman Singh, said: “Being a fighter in the war of independence of Bangladesh, I must want trial of war criminals through a special tribunal.”

He recalled that the trial of German war criminals had taken place even 50 years after World War II. “So I don’t think there is any bar to holding trial against the war criminals after 37 years of the liberation war,” Singh was quoted as saying by the New Age newspaper Monday.

A highly emotive issue in Bangladesh, it is currently being advocated by former soldiers and Mukti Bahini freedom fighters, besides many political parties who want to keep Islamist political parties, particularly the Jamaat-e-Islami (JeI), out of the country’s elections.

The Bangladesh Army chief is supportive of the idea and the Election Commission is considering pleas by political parties.

Gen. Ahmed played host to the Indian team at a reception Sunday, urging them to play the role of goodwill ambassadors.

He recalled with gratitude the Indian support in Bangladesh’s emergence and appreciated the role of the Indian Army during the war in 1971, Bangladesh Sangbad Sangstha (BSS) news agency said.

“We fought shoulder to shoulder during the war in 1971,” Jacob told the Bangladesh Army chief, as he praised the Bangladeshi fighters, then trained and assisted by the Indian Army.

Air Vice marshal (retd) A.K. Khandaker, who later became the first chief of Bangladesh Air Force (BAF), hugged Jacob at a reception hosted by the Sector Commanders - the Pakistan Army personnel of the East Bengal Regiment who fought with the Indian Army, The Daily Star said.

There was a unique reunion among the 1971 war veterans, both Indians and Bangladeshis, at a function attended by politicians, lawyers, cultural activists, businessman, retired armed forces personnel and human rights activists, who took part in the ‘war of independence’ directly or indirectly.

Among them were freedom fighters and former ministers like Kamal Hossain, Abdur Razzaq, Toafil Ahmed, Motia Chowdhury, Haider Akbar Khan Rono, Hasanul Haq Inu and Rashed Khan Menon.

“The visiting Indian ex-army veterans and their Bangladeshi comrades turned nostalgic in remembrance of their heroic victory over the Pakistan occupation army in 1971. The thrilled and excited war heroes embraced each other while recollecting their days of war together,” the newspaper said.

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